South Pole weather is said to be dreadful, making the work done there as difficult as in the fictionalized account and rescue of the NASA astronauts in the movie The Martian.
In the movie, the rescue operation was for one person, as it is with the very real effort to save the life of a Lockheed-Martin contractor from a 70-year-old research facility in Antarctica in the South Pole.
NPR’s The Two-Way reported that at 5:45 p.m. EST, a plane on the rescue mission landed in at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, where a yet-to-be identified researcher had fallen ill.
Planes hardly fly in or out of the area during this time of year, as it’s the height of winter there.
Spokesman for the National Science Foundation Peter West has been quoted by several sources on how the rescue team would have to fly out to take the member to a hospital.
“They need to be sure the weather is clear, not only where they are but 1,500 miles away.”
An article by CNN about the daring air rescue points out the difficulty of the mission, where they risk the entire crew with the load of the person who is ill.
— NSF Polar Programs (@NSF_OPP) June 21, 2016
It also says that there is a second plane in the Antarctic Peninsula 1,500 miles away at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Station, which is along the Northern edge of the South Pole. The plane is ready in case they need to rescue the rescuers.
In the report filed by CBS This Morning shown above, a pilot explains how there isn’t enough fuel to complete a round-trip to the station and back, so they would have to refuel at the Amundsen-Scott facility in weather that threatens to freeze the fuel, in order to make it back.
Another article on this South Pole rescue operation published by Nature confirms they would need to move quickly in order for them to not become stranded and unable to make the immediate return.
Because of the weather conditions, the sky and the ground both look the same, which adds to the disorientation the pilot would experience to and from the facility.
And, yet, according to the CNN source, the pilot Ken Borek felt on Tuesday that he considered the conditions flyable, and if the weather permits, they would be able to fly back to Rothera with the patient before taking them to Chile. The scenario would assume they would have a larger window to play it by ear.
https://t.co/oSNlsoT5XV Видеотур по антарктической станции Амундсен–Скотт (Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station) на Южном полюсе…
— watefir (@watefir) May 30, 2016
In the CBS report, one pilot explained how during one rescue years ago, the skis on the plane froze to the surface and only added to the delay.
The temperature there is currently -70 degrees with a windchill of -101 degrees Fahrenheit but to make things even more difficult, the entire continent is covered by darkness, as there is no sun and they only have the light of the moon, which also makes the South Pole facility unique.
The CNN source also describes how Dr. Jerri Nielsen, who was at the sight, had to perform her own biopsy and administer her own care for 6-months because no one was able to get to her when she was suffering from breast cancer in 1999.
Dr. Nielsen was in remission and she was evacuated, but died from complications of the disease in 2009.
One former contractor who lived and worked at the South Pole station between 2012-2013 offers a tour of the facility, which is state-of-the-art.
The tour shows the many rooms and wings of the building, from a gym to a large dining area with a view of the icy landscape.
The building is large enough to have everything that everyone could need in the middle of the South Pole, but the contractor’s illness is reportedly bad enough, however, that they’re going to need a hospital instead.
As the South Pole facility has been built up since it was first put there in 1956, there’s likely a chance they would have to also build a hospital-like environment in order for them to lessen the risk of sending out a rescue team.